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Who Is Fashion For?

by Sandy Black .

Fashion is both an internal and external experience of the body, a three way communication between designer, wearer and those who observe, each adding their own patina of taste.

Fashion is not fashion without a body. In two dimensions there is simply a blueprint on paper, shapes imposed on cloth. These must be fashioned and nurtured from two to three dimensions, darted, pulled, eased and stretched perhaps; layered, crimped, sliced, tucked and pressed. Only when displayed and preened by its proud wearer does fashion come alive. Fashion which aesthetically surrounds the dimensions of the body exudes confidence, embodying a spirit, encouraging display and performance: the wearer creates their own spectacle, interpreting and completing the story started by the designer. The pose of the model or dandy cries  -  'am I being watched?'


Who is fashion for? Is it the wearer or the viewer? Fashion is both an internal and external  experience of the body, a three-way communication between designer, wearer and those who observe, each adding their own patina of taste. Fashion is embodied and performed and exists in movement, although it is very often consumed in static display in the pages of a magazine or newspaper. A confection of styling, lighting, accessories, props and artifice create beautiful desirable fashion sculptures: but let’s see fashion move and perform! The static fashion image at its creative best steps up to new heights, breaking new ground visually, but all too often appears rather contrived or anodyne. In contrast, the spectacle of the high fashion catwalk creates drama and theatre in the hands of those designers with a visionary personal style, which feeds the entire fashion system for seasons to come.


Fashion, whether static or moving, should be for many bodies. The body is rarely 'perfect' in all its multiplicities. Fashion is diversity. How fashion feels is emotional within and on the body: the caress of cloth on the skin, the stiffness of new jeans, the coolness of silk, the constraint of a corseted bodice, the firm grip of new shoes, the comfort of cashmere, the rustle of satin, the power of a new jacket, the ease of stretch materials which move when we do. Fashion can simultaneously reveal and conceal the naked body with second skin clothing; or disguise the form by enveloping the body, draping it in fluid fabric, or encasing it in an imposed or distorted silhouette. Designs may accentuate waist, hips, shoulder, buttocks, breasts or feet, pushing societal boundaries. In extremis the body becomes a grotesque and fetishised site.


Why do we need to consume fashion? Why do we need the new pair of shoes, the new dress, the new shirt or jacket when there are plenty hanging in our wardrobes? The answer seems to be that fashion provides us with a complex series of interactions between self, identity, novelty, performance, expression, spectacle and display to fuel our social interactions and celebrate diverse cultures. Its interconnected cycles turn the grotesque to the everyday in ever decreasing circles, a dance through time of the evolving fashion body.